Published:

Economy ‘back open by May’ as Johnson says end is in sight

“Boris Johnson declared that Britain was on a “one-way road to freedom” last night as he announced plans to restart most of society and the economy by May. The prime minister said that “the end really is in sight” as he published a blueprint for reopening pubs, restaurants and shops, allowing holidays and ending social distancing. Sectors of the economy in England will restart “cautiously and irreversibly” in four stages between early next month and mid-June… Johnson said the lockdown could not “persist indefinitely” and people must learn to live with coronavirus. He warned that no vaccine would be 100 per cent effective and easing restrictions would inevitably lead to more deaths.” – The Times

  • City centres will roar back to life as lockdown ends, says Prime Minister – Daily Telegraph
  • Lockdown exit strategy in full – Daily Mail
  • Showing a vaccine passport could unlock mass events – The Times
  • Areas will be plunged into postcode lockdowns to stop mutant Covid strains – The Sun
  • Sunseekers pencil in foreign holidays – The Times

More:

  • Plans to ease lockdown earlier were axed after Sage warning – Daily Telegraph
  • Whitty says covid vaccines could be compulsory for medics and care staff – Daily Mail
  • They warned it would cause 91,000 more deaths’ – The Sun
  • Vaccines cut Covid hospital admissions by up to 94 per cent – The Times

Comment:

  • Vaccine win shows how NHS waiting lists can be slashed – Nick Bosanquet and Andrew Haldenby, The Times

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Tories hit out at pace of Covid roadmap

“Lockdown-sceptic Conservative MPs have lambasted Boris Johnson over the timetable of his roadmap out of Covid restrictions, declaring it a “hammer blow” to a number of sectors. On Monday night, backbench Tories raised concerns over the pace at which hospitality can reopen and the speed with which curbs on weddings and their attendees will be repealed. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, indicated that the pace of the strategy lacked ambition, although it was a “step in the right direction”… Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tories, challenged Mr Johnson in the House over his reason for not removing all restrictions by the end of April, by which time all over-50s are set to be vaccinated – a milestone forecast to slash deaths by up to 99 per cent.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Easing of restrictions for England to take place in 4 stages – FT
  • ‘Snail-paced return to freedom’ – The Sun
  • Hancock counters Johnson’s optimism and warns timetable could slip – Daily Telegraph

Education:

  • Headteachers warn of delay to full reopening of England’s schools – FT
  • Face masks and four tests for pupils when secondary schools reopen – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Thirteen Conservative MPs pressed for a faster easing of restrictions during Johnson’s statement yesterday – and 35 did not

>Yesterday:

Sir Graham Brady: The state must never hold such control over our lives again

“I  think we must understand that being cautious with the lives of some might itself amount to recklessness with the lives of others. We should recognise that these aren’t freedoms that belong to the state, they are freedoms that we were lucky enough to be born with. Our freedoms have been taken away and they should be restored as quickly as can safely be done. The Government says it is being “driven by data not by dates”, but there are a lot of “at the earliest” dates peppered all over the statement. What if the data continues to improve rapidly? What if the vaccines turbo-charge the fall in infections? Shouldn’t we then move faster? Perhaps the most import thing the Prime Minister said yesterday is that we have to accept Covid as an endemic virus. We have to find the safest way to live with it for some years to come.” – Daily Telegraph

  • What is the point of Sir Keir Starmer? – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • The goalposts have been moved again… and the result will be utterly ruinous – Jeremy King, Daily Mail
  • Easing lockdown will allow Covid to spread, here’s how to mitigate the risks – Sam Bowman, The Guardian
  • We must be as radical in helping schools as we were with vaccines – William Hague, Daily Telegraph
  • Unions’ refusal to reopen schools is a betrayal of children – David Blunkett, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Reopening plan strikes a sensible balance – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Parliament should vote monthly from March on ending the lockdown

Sunak likely to extend help to furloughed workers until May

“Furlough support for workers will continue beyond next month, Boris Johnson signalled yesterday as he pledged not to “pull the rug out” from under the economy while the lockdown restrictions were being eased. The scheme is due to run out at the end of the financial year but Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to extend this until at least May when he delivers his budget a week tomorrow. After that, government sources suggest, furlough support will be gradually wound down. Sunak is looking at reinstating a government scheme to pay one-off bonuses to companies that take back furloughed workers. There is likely to be sector-specific support for industries such as aviation, which may take longer to reopen.” – The Times

>Today: Audio: The Moggcast: “If you want to pick a figure, you would choose Keynes.” The Leader of the House as next week’s Budget looms

UK to ‘defend free speech’ in dealings with Facebook

“Downing Street has vowed to be “robust in defending free speech and journalism” when the culture secretary meets Facebook executives to discuss the social media network’s news ban in Australia. A spokesman for Boris Johnson said that he was “obviously concerned” by Facebook’s news ban in reaction to an Australian law that would force the tech giant to compensate publishers for use of their articles. Health warnings on the pandemic and regional alerts on bushfires were among pages blocked in Australia as a result. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, will meet executives from Facebook this week amid growing international pressure for the UK to introduce Australian-style legislation. Canada has already indicated that it will follow Australia’s lead in passing similar laws.” – The Times

  • No 10 ‘concerned’ about Facebook news shutdown in Australia – The Guardian

Comment:

  • A purge of conservative book editors should worry anyone who cares about democracy – Ben Lawrence, Daily Telegraph

Ex-Labour staffer goes to court to try to identify leaker of antisemitism report

“A former senior Labour staffer has taken the party to court in an attempt to force it to disclose the identity of the leaker of a report on antisemitism in the party that contained hundreds of private WhatsApp messages. The case is the latest in a line of legal troubles for the party stemming from the internal report, which concluded that factional hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn hampered the party’s efforts to tackle antisemitism. The report, leaked to the media without redaction, included details of staffers’ private conversations expressing hostility towards Corbyn or his close allies and bemoaning Labour’s better-than-expected performance at the 2017 general election. The report reignited the row within the party over its handling of disciplinary cases and led to party members’ suspension.” – The Guardian

DUP’s shifting stance on ‘Swiss-style’ EU trade alignment revealed

“The Democratic Unionist party privately lobbied the British government for a “Swiss-style” alignment with EU rules on food and agricultural products, an idea it now rejects as a solution to the difficulties created by Northern Ireland’s trade protocol. The DUP’s current party line is to dismiss the idea of such an alignment, saying it would require the UK to “slavishly” align with Europe. However, in a letter to agriculture secretary George Eustice last June seen by the Financial Times, the DUP’s Edwin Poots — then Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister — described the maximum alignment approach as a “key ask” in reducing the protocol’s impact.” – FT

  • Fury as Brussels halts France’s flagship recovery plans – Daily Express
  • State offers loan support to foreign buyers of UK goods – FT

Salmond ‘accuses Sturgeon’s husband of trying to imprison him’

“Alex Salmond has alleged there was a conspiracy to remove him from public life and even imprison him involving a series of senior SNP figures including Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and chief of staff. In an extraordinary submission to a Holyrood inquiry, the former First Minister said the evidence “supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP.” Mr Salmond, who will appear before the inquiry on Wednesday, said the “inescapable conclusion” was that they had tried to remove him from public life and claimed they would have succeeded if not for the court system. Among those he named were Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive and Ms Sturgeon’s husband, and Liz Lloyd, her chief of staff.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He claims ‘malicious and concerted’ effort to remove him from public life – FT
  • Police chief hits out at Sturgeon’s strict Scottish border plot – Daily Express

Comment:

  • New-look No 10 boosts Johnson’s prospects of saving the Union – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

>Today: Andy Maciver in Comment: Scotland. Don’t run away from a referendum. Instead, embrace it, offer a new Union – and win

>Yesterday: Jonathan Werran in Comment: The Union and the English question. The answer is to let a hundred localist flowers bloom

News in Brief:

  • Why isn’t Matt Hancock in jail? – Will Havelock, CapX
  • What kind of government rules by fear? – Madeleine Armstrong, The Critic
  • Why we should abolish schools – Will Lloyd, UnHerd
  • Spain’s anarchists are rioting – Jim Lawley, The Spectator